Monday, September 05, 2011

Nothing More than Feelings

Disclaimer: I have read and re-read through this post, and still for the life of me cannot put my finger on what dissatisfies me about it. Something is missing, and it still fails to portray my thoughts and feelings about Cataclysm. I will not delete it, nor dissect it further, for perhaps in the future I can come back to it with a new set of eyes to see clearly how this post can improve my future blogging. 

Never-the-less, I do hope you enjoy it, readers.

A quick couple of tweets between some players that I respect and myself has prompted this piece, what you see before you. Unable to fully grasp what it is that I have not enjoyed about Cataclysm, until now, has betrayed my common sense and eluded my critical thinking. I will attempt to be brief, and concise, but I make no promises.

I am, after all an unwashed, uneducated windbag.

You see I really liked Cataclysm, and still do. I thoroughly enjoy leveling new characters (many, as you now know) with the updated 'old Azeroth'. Burning Crusade and Northrend can be painful, but if I can't make the effort to have fun, I tear that bandage off quickly. Frankly I have much more fun helping out in the New Player Forums (of late I have been a little busy for, more on that latter) and running alts with friends.

But it is at 80 I have more than a few characters 'parked', without setting foot in either of the Cata starting areas. I find that right now the most difficult time I have is making another alt go through it all again. Gearing up is causing me to roll my eyes with the 'seriously again?' look on my face. Of my three 85's, two have gear appropriate for Heroics, while the third (a Hunter) is sitting on a truckload of unused PvP gear, of which I haven't seen the inside of a BG since somewhere in the area of the 4.1 season 10 Honor Point debacle. I cannot make myself go any further.


What within Cata changed that may have affected me so? I have never really been much of a Raider, but I do have a Kingslayer (yes 30%, more on that latter too). Though I have not done Arena's, I do really well in BG's and enjoy a good melee, win or lose. Wrath brought me into the Endgame fold, something that I had not advanced to with the BC expansion and Vanilla. Honestly, I was the n00b I try to now help back in the first two expansions.

But we as people, and players, grow. We evolve. We become better.

Have I ever found the game overly challenging? No. Too Easymode? No. Have I spoken a word untoward's Blizzard or World of Warcraft for good or ill before today? No. I have enjoyed that wonderful game as it was handed to me as is, forever more. Quoth the Raven.

But not anymore. It has taken me a lot of introspection, being one whom does not hop on a band wagon and gripe about whatever perceived wrongs have been done to 'us'. It has certainly taken me a long time to reach this point, but really it's a game, and not a life changing one to be sure. I have been blessed with the rare ability to look past how changes and feelings affect me directly, and am able to see a larger piece of the grand picture. I can walk a mile in another's shoes, and comfortably change back into my Airwalks.

This is what I can fit together thus far, to show you how the puzzle coalesces before me.

Cataclysm Healing makes me want to punch puppies.

I have a dog. He is adorable. His infamous portrait of shameless plugging is below. Look at the puppy. That is who I want to punch when I heal Cata normal's! [For the record, and all the concerned PETA follower's, I have not, nor will ever, hurt mine or another puppy. Ever. This is just popular interwebs meme, no?] Healing in Cata became more dynamic, challenging and fun. It sure did.

That is, up until you have to Heal another player, anytime, anywhere.

I get the perception of Healing at the end of the last expansion, I really do. I had an 80 Resto Druid, no need to tell me. Players complained endless (some I am certain unknowingly) about easy modes, welfare epics, and gimme buffs. Some complained the loudest about healing being too easy, too much spamming, or limitless mana. It's in this players humble opinion that many of these so called pro's left healing behind, never truly being devoted to the practice in the first place. But I digress.

Windbag. I am one. If you've made it this far, a cookie for you.

I am no where near the worlds greatest healer, but I am above average. I am one level higher than satisfactory. I have rolled up at least one each of the four, two of which are 85's. I love to heal, and I will heal for anyone. In Wrath. Now a loathe to think of queuing up for a 5-man, healing random other people, and I most certainly cannot heal by myself, running solo, for myself. I will heal for friends occasionally, but after Wrath many of the guild my Main was in drifted, and my RL friends schedules vary. So where does this leave me?

Pugs. Lovely.

Pugs can be great times, but often all it takes is one sour run to ruin an evening. I also don't know anyone during an LFD pick-up. They're strangers. The players from my realm to players from another, from Calgary to New York to Neptune, strangers one and all. I cannot trust that one of them might be the one whom rains on my parade. This will tie into the post much more clearly in the second article, so bear with me. Suffice it to say that Pugs can be a great part of the game, but it's largely not why I signed up.

When Pugs fail, things can go south really, really fast. Not to say they do all the time, but rare is it to see groups form up and try again. What usually happens is this: First some profanities are tossed around, then some blame, then some counter insults, more blame, a rage quit, and finally back to the queue. This rancor is more than enough by itself (and detailed latter), but the why Pugs fail is what I gravitate to here. Repeatedly. Because I am the healer, and I cannot heal. Apparently.

I cannot maintain heals throughout difficult encounters with more than one player doing something incorrectly within them. My throughput suffers consequential scaling with Blizzards high level healing design, and no matter the skill nor practice and experience can I change this. Too many of my comrades die for me to enjoy the game as is, and whether they pull the rage card or not I still feel as though I'm failing, and I long to play at the level I enjoy.

I call shenanigans.

I Refuse to be Party to a System of Labeling and Segregation of Players.

I mentioned earlier that I obtained the Kingslayer title after successfully downing the Lich King. My Guild did this. It was wonderful, gimme Buffs or no. But it took many hours and endless patience on the Raid Leaders part, a RL buddy of mine, to teach the players whom for whatever reason could not play on the same field as others. Different players have varied skill levels, and we all know this.

We did it though. We. Out of the ten people there, five could reasonably make up for any lack of the other five, and we could down the big bad. This is no longer the case, as I understand it. Though I have yet to get into Cata raiding, many discussions I have had over steak sandwiches and helping noobies have left me thinking many boss fights within these new raids will be too hard for some players I know. The five from the example above perhaps? This skill fissure becomes important in the third part of this post, but for now let me describe how it enables players to sunder the relationships and hierarchy of one another.

From what I can tell (and have first hand experience with) is players that can do, have little option left to help those players who cannot. There is now a startling divide between these two groups, and the evidence of how this affects the game community rears it ugly head in incredibly destructive ways. On the extreme, players are at one another's throats, both within game and outside its wall in public community forums. Our own General Forums is legendary in it's avarice, a shinning example when players are dissatisfied with a game, but clearly are unsure how voice this ambiguity.

In the interim, player's quit. Whether that is a certain role within the game, or speaking with their wallets, the result is much the same. We're left with a void to fill, and good people (read: not good players, good people) are so very hard to find. The players left fall to either side of the fence, and begin labeling and counter-labeling one another: Scrub, Pro, Leet, Elitist, Baddie, Casual, Basement-dweller, the list is endless. Greifer's abound, players intentionally disrupt one another's game time, and Trade chat is a sewer, over flowing with filth. Were things always like this? To some extent, yes they were. But with less and less intervention in the form of active and existent moderation, coupled with an ever (until now) expanding population, lately fueled by frustration, and simmered over the flames of humiliation, our beloved community is a cantankerous apocalyptic war-zone with small pockets of paradise. Noob.

Some of that perverse and dour attitude bleeds into me, metamorphosing itself into a negative attitude of despair. Of this I am aware, and do my very best to not let it take me down some dark alleyway, infesting others that may stray in my path. It is during these times I stay out of the New Player Forums, where I would do more harm than good. This aggravates me very much, as I do so fondly crave frolicking in the fields of the nubs. Less with the dramatic you say? Blasphemy says I.

Deep breath. We're getting there, I promise.

I have no conspiracy theories for you about this. I blame neither the community as a whole nor Blizzard for the behavioral patterns that have shed their skin and evolved over that last year. Individually, we're all people, and good people for the most part. I do blame Blizzard in taking no part what so ever with any solutions, be they community driven or internally created. I blame them for taking no stance against the divisions and malice that have become common place, enough so that they go unnoticed in all but the most horrendous situations of abuse.

Most of all I blame the player base, those whom instead of rising up and taking personal responsibility for the actions of themselves and their peers, chose instead to forgo bravery and conviction, to become invisible inside the masses, to become one with the daemon, lest they be targeted and harangued themselves. At certain periods throughout the years that I have been involved with WoW, this shamefully includes me.

In olden days, this behavior was often referred to as cowardice. Uphill, both ways.

I have not posted anything this poignant and melodramatic before, and have edited and re-edited this piece many times. I noticed how serious in nature this post has become, and as that is not how I usually am, some awkward hilarity needs to ensue. Please allow for me to give you: The Intermission!

Player Skill level, from Beginning to End, is Astronomically Different.

Some of my friends lack that spark to play well enough to raid in the game as it stands. I have gone into detail about how I do not need some Human Male Paladin to make this brutally aware to an unsuspecting co-conspirator of fun. Now I would like to continue in this last vein of my angst, solely based on the development of World of Warcraft.

If you only considered levels one through ten, I am a Pro. During this period I can and should be considered ample talent for Sponsorship and entitled entry into the Halls of Paragon. As we all should. Because the game in the beginning is very easy. Now onto end game, post 85, where I could (and probably should) be raiding some of the first, and maybe second, tier of raiding. But I have not, and more than likely will not, because I cannot be there with the majority of my 'friends'.

I want to highlight friends, and say that these people are more numerous in game than in real life. That is to say, I have less friends who play WoW in my day to day life then the players I have met through in-game experiences. That so, there is still some connection, a relationship, that makes the value of these players more so then random LFD Rogue number 5. I know a little about the in-game friends, and I know a lot about the RL ones.

These are the people I want to play with, I want to raid with, I want to run Battle Grounds with, I want to talk to while inside. Sadly, as with all relationships, personal schedules often take away opportunities to do any of these events. This is why I condemn, with extreme prejudice, current game systems which exclude some or many players from enjoying all the game has to offer. By design.

By Greg Streets own admission, retracted or shoveled over, this game is Hard. Really? Is it? How far has the MMO genre evolved? It is if the impression I have had that WoW paved the way into a new generation of game that has done away with caste players and measuring epeens (to which Blizzard openly makes light satire of) never existed. Was I so wrong?

Somewhere in our recent past we dived back into those primordial pools of Amino Acids and Mana, Corpse Runs and Spawn Timers, to re-emerge two steps forward and three steps back. Gone are the days where almost anyone with a dose of effort and the will and patience could see the final events of an expansion. We all could attempt the Lich King. Blizzard gave us all the opportunity to take a shot at the heralded and triumphant villain Arthas. And we came in droves.

Now, someone whom was a raider, albeit a cold one, has yet to see one new Raid. I am willing to wager I'm not alone. Not by a long shot. We can all take a look on one of the many sites devoted to stats and figures and can conclude this. Not as many players have taken down as many Raid bosses in Cata as in Wrath. There are less subscriptions now then there was in Wrath. Players are not satisfied with their characters performance. In short, for many, the game is too hard for the rewards at end game. Some of these 'many' are friends of mine, and it pains me not to be able to play the game at the end with them.

By design.

By design the game is significantly different from beginning to end, so much so that the content of which is exclusive and thoroughly fastidious in its membership. I do not for one want access to hard modes without commitment, do not mistake me. However I do want to roll up on Ragnaros with my friends, and with time and effort, succeed the encounter. Currently I am denied this, and it baffles me to no end. I want to roll with my homies, nothing more, nothing less.

Holy Crow you're a Trooper.

I'm going to wrap this up, hopefully in lighter spirit form the bulk of this post. You may not know this, but I am passionate about the WoW community, the players, and the game. I get upset when things go wrong, not as in a dungeon, but as I beleive they have for just under a year, conceptually. For the record (again) I plan on continuing to play, I have not cancelled any subs, and still very much enjoy playing the content I can with my friends. This is not a subsequent blog leading into SW:TOR, and how everyone must get it. This is just an essay on how I feel, and how it might relate to the community I represent.

Take these predisposed ideas with a grain of salt, of course. I cannot be everywhere in game and community like some omniscient Tauren Lord of Mordor. The prevailing feeling is what I present to you fine folks, after engaging with fellow players, like minded community members, and arrogant douchebags. I am more than sincere in my belief of bountiful oasis' of positive community and game play. I am also very happy to have found my niche in-game, where my thrill for the game moves ever onward.

Once more I relate how much I enjoy helping new players with their questions and concerns, and look forward to returning to that forum with gusto, a renewed (nyuk nyuk) sense of empathy and faith. Writing gives many a sense of peace from telling the world their stories, and I am no different. As to my concerns, we will have to wait to see what 4.3, and possibly (and much, much later) 5.0 bring us. Perhaps Blizzard is tuning in, and the night is at its darkest now, before the dawn.

Perhaps I should give this garrulous post a rest, before 4.3 hits beta, no?